The female thavil player breaking the mould
Playing the instrument remains a male bastion, but few have been able to break this tradition
Although women have made their mark in various fields, playing the thavil in Carnatic music remains a male bastion. There are many women who play the nagaswaram. But only a few have been able to break the mould and pursue a career as a thavil player. M. Sarojini of Vriddhachalam is among them.
Devotees at Viruthagireeswarar temple know her well as she is a musician of the temple.
“My family had reservations when I showed interest in learning the instrument. They felt the thavil was a tough instrument and not suitable for a woman. But I decided to go ahead,” said Ms. Sarojini. She learnt the instrument when she was studying in Class 5.
Learning the instrument was easy for her as she belonged to a family of nagaswaram and thavil players.
All in the family
Her father Chinna Pillai, a nagaswaram player, and her brother Gurumurthy, a thavil player, are attached to Viruthagireeswarar temple in Vriddhachalam. The family has roots in Thanjavur, but migrated to Vriddhachalam 30 years ago.
“As a temple musician, I play four times a day in the temple when the pujas are conducted. I accompany my father. I also perform outside at concerts but mostly with my family members, who are musicians,” said Ms. Sarojini, who had to take a break from playing the thavil when her son was born.
But she soon resumed playing and became a part of Nada Sangamam, a troupe that comprises an amalgamation of various instrument players.
They play classical and film songs at different functions and weddings. “Our troupe has performed in various places, including in Chennai. I am keen on improving my career as a performing artiste,” added Ms. Sarojini.